Throughout US history, judges, scholars, and citizens have argued about how to go about interpreting the US Constitution. The current Supreme Court has embraced a methodology called “originalism” or “original public meaning.” But what exactly is “originalism”? What is its backstory? How does it differ from other approaches to interpretation? Are there good arguments for and against it? How does the Court’s focus on this one methodology shape its decisions and affect our lives? Three distinguished authorities will help us understand originalism and its discontents.
Perry Dane is a Professor of Law at the Rutgers Law School. He was previously on the faculty of the Yale Law School and served as a law clerk to William J. Brennan, Jr., Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.
His academic interests include Constitutional Law and Theory, Conflict of Laws, Religion and the Law, legal pluralism, the jurisprudence of Jewish law, the law of marriage, and interfaith dialogue. In 2011, Professor Dane received the Inaugural Dean’s Award for Scholarly Excellence at the Rutgers School of Law – Camden. He is a graduate of Yale College and Yale Law School.
Susan Herman is the inaugural Ruth Bader Ginsburg Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School. Like Ginsburg, she served as General Counsel to the American Civil Liberties Union. In October 2008, Herman was elected as the seventh President of the ACLU, a position she held until stepping down in January 2021. She teaches courses in Constitutional Law and Criminal Procedure, and seminars including Terrorism and Civil Liberties, Law and Literature, COVID-19 and the Constitution, and Current Issues in Constitutional Law.
Herman has written and spoken widely in the areas of Constitutional Law and Criminal Procedure. Her publications include several books as well as articles in law reviews, periodicals, and online venues. Her book, Taking Liberties: The War on Terror and the Erosion of American Democracy (Oxford University Press 2011; paperback edition 2014), was awarded the Roy C. Palmer Civil Liberties Prize. She has discussed constitutional law issues on radio, including a variety of NPR shows; on television, including programs on CNN, CSPAN, MSNBC, NBC, and PBS; and has been a frequent speaker at conferences and events organized by schools, universities, and law schools; by groups ranging from the Federal Judicial Center to the U.S. Army War College to Wikimania; and at international conferences like Web Summit and Collision.
Jack Rakove is the emeritus William Robertson Coe Professor of History and American Studies and Professor of Political Science and (by courtesy) Law at Stanford University, where he has taught since 1980. He was educated at Haverford College, where he earned a B.A. in History in 1968, the University of Edinburgh, and Harvard, where he received his Ph.D. in History in 1975. He is the author of eight books, including Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution, which won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize in History, the 1997 Faunces Tavern Museum Book Award, and the 1998 Society of the Cincinnati Book Prize; Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America, which was a finalist for the George Washington Prize; and Beyond Belief, Beyond Conscience: The Radical Significance of the Free Exercise of Religion. He is currently at work on The Ticklish Experiment: A Political History of the Constitution, 1789-2024.